Beyond cava or champagne: nine drinks to brighten up Christmas
We have survived the first days of Easter but there are still many holidays ahead. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are perhaps more familiar, but it is clear that New Year's Eve and New Year's Eve are occasions that lend themselves more to celebrating them in style. What cannot be missing these days? In addition to food - needless to say -, drinks take on a special role, but not everything has to be cava or champagne. We propose nine alternative options to brighten up the holidays.
When I think of my childhood New Year's Eve dinners, I always remember how fun it was to uncork the cava or champagne on duty. My father has never been very crafty and he liked to clown a bit, so the cap would fly off and the bubbles would fill everything. To tell the truth, we have never been very fond of any of these sparkling wines, so, unless they gave us a bottle, we have always toasted with other drinks.
My favorite option when it comes to toasting with bubbles. It may seem like a more humble drink but it has to be claimed much more, especially good quality ones, as ciders are as worthy or more than many cavas. We can choose a good Asturian Brut cider with Denomination of Origin -recommended by the Regulatory Council for the holidays-, or try other national or foreign varieties, if we feel like it.
It is not necessary to pour cider in the middle of dinner, the most practical are bottles of natural filtered or sparkling cider, dry type. Today we can also find cider with other fruity flavors, with pear or berries, such as blackberries or raspberries. There are good British ciders and we also found a German equivalent, the Apfelwein. They are light drinks, very refreshing, with little alcohol and fine bubbles. It is the best option for the least friends of champagne.
The so-called drink of the town is living a new era of splendor with the fashion for craft beers, and it is also increasingly taking to try specialties from all over the world. In addition, many brands and producers take advantage of Christmas to launch special Christmas editions, usually limited, with some extra added value. Why force the palate to wine or cava if what we like is a good beer?
Both to pair with lunch or dinner, as well as for toast time, there is a beer for every moment and every taste. You can take a look at the proposals that Minue made us to celebrate Oktoberfest if you need inspiration, or look for Christmas beers in any store. Let us also remember the list of the best supermarket beers according to the OCU, and the detailed tastings that our specialist has been doing over the years.
The appellative frizzante is an Italian term that has become very popular in recent years. We can equate it to the more traditional sparkling wine, but which has become somewhat refined, imposing itself as a trend. You just have to go to a specialized store or any hypermarket to see how the offer has grown, with both Italian and national wines, reds, rosés or whites, even made with high quality grapes in areas with designation of origin.
It depends a bit on each wine, but in general they are very easy to drink, light and fresh, usually fruity, sweet or semi-dry. The bubbles of these wines are very fine and subtle, barely perceptible, and they have a low alcohol content that ranges between 5 and 10 degrees. They are perfect for not giving up the bubbles in the toast and can accompany us throughout the dinner, although they are especially grateful with appetizers.
We return to the Italian bubbles with a sparkling wine that is also growing in popularity at our tables and at those around the world, the prosecco. This time we are closer to cava or champagne with an option that is gaining followers because it is more accessible and, in general, much cheaper. Although true lovers of sparkling wines do not really consider it an alternative to good champagne, it is appropriate to toast at Christmas when our palate or pocket is not used to more complex and expensive wines.
It is a white wine made with grapes of the or Glera variety, in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regions, in northwestern Italy. Unlike its French and Spanish cousins, it undergoes the second fermentation in a pressurized tank, at which point the carbon dioxide that creates the bubbles is released. As with all wines, there are different qualities, denomination of origin stamps and differences in flavor and aromas depending on the level of sugar, brut, dry and extra dry. The bubbles are more subtle and in general it offers a more fruity and sweet drink, very light.
The famous punch that we have seen so much in American movies and television is also a good drink to celebrate at Christmas. There are many different recipes with different degrees of alcohol, more or less sweet, hot or cold. In Latin America it is a very popular drink during the Christmas holidays, and our friends at Directo al Paladar México have several recipes that we can try at home. They sound very appetizing, for example, the cold white wine and mandarin punch, or the more traditional Christmas fruit punch.
In addition to water, sugar and spices such as cinnamon and cloves, the punch contains tequila or some other alcoholic beverage and, above all, lots of fruit. The traditional thing is to use natural fruits, although there are also concentrates that make their preparation easier. Apple, pear, guava, tejocote, tamarind, prunes, orange, lime ... Without a doubt, a drink of the most aromatic and sweet.
Spiced mulled wine
Also full of aromas and dangerously sweet is the spicy mulled wine, which feels wonderful when it is cold. There are many versions throughout Europe with their little differences, from the mulled wine british until glögg Swedish, going through the vin chaud French. Perhaps the best known is Glühwein, because it is very typical of the German and Swiss Christmas markets, and we also have the recipe.
Mulled wine is very easy to prepare at home and serves both as an aperitif and after dinner, to accompany dessert or to toast at dawn. There is no need to spend a fortune on wine bottles, but it is not advisable to rake too much in its quality, and I recommend adding natural orange or mandarin juice to reduce it a bit. Of course, another option is to enrich it even more and add a good splash of cognac or a fruit liqueur. It can also be prepared with white wine.
If the hot drink does not appeal to us much, it is much easier to get carried away by a good sweet wine. Sweet wines are those that contain a high content of sugars, either residual or due to the process of adding alcohol to the must. Excellent sweet wines are produced in Spain, such as Pedro Ximénez, Muscat or Malvasia, and Port wines or Italian Moscatos also fall into this group.
Although they are all sweet, they offer different aromas and tasting notes, with different pairings despite the fact that anyone could accompany Christmas sweets very well. Perhaps Porto and Pedro Ximénez are the most typical to serve at the end of a Christmas menu, as they harmonize wonderfully with nuts, spices and chocolate. I have its aromas associated with Christmas and it is difficult for me to take them at another time of year.
Mead or mead
It is a drink produced from the fermentation of a must based on water, honey and yeast. It is said that it is the first alcoholic beverage in history and is considered the precedent of beer, and was widely consumed by different civilizations of antiquity. Today it is closely associated with its mythological character and is related to the Nordic peoples, especially the Viking culture.
The mead has that kind of magical drink that makes it a very appropriate drink for Christmas, even if it is to try something original and different. All the symbology that surrounds it drinks a lot from the Christmas atmosphere, with its magical and medicinal powers and its association with ancestral rites of nature. Some are encouraged to make mead at home, although it is better to look for specialized stores to avoid disasters. The alcoholic graduation is usually around 11-13 degrees and they combine very well with appetizers, cheeses and desserts, hot or cold.
Vermouth or vermouth
We could say that this 2016 has been the great year of vermouth or vermouth, at least of its recovery as a drink of habitual consumption also among young people. Its future continues to be promising and it does not seem that it has been a passing trend, and we are happy because we love a good vermouth. Can it be a Christmas drink? Of course, whether in a good bar or at home with family and friends.
Today we can find many types of vermouth on the market and we have multiple possibilities to taste it. Alone, combined with other drinks, with natural juice, as an ingredient in recipes, in the aperitif or pairing fish dishes, in the cocktail table ... If you want to know more about the history and culture of this popular drink, I refer you to this great report that my partner Pakus dedicated a few months ago.
Let it not be said that ideas are lacking to toast and celebrate with good drinks at Christmas. If you like champagne or cava, nothing prevents you from enjoying your favorite foams, but it doesn't hurt to have different alternatives on hand at parties. What drink do you keep when it comes to partying in good company? Would you like to try something different to say goodbye to the year?
Photos | iStock, Dinner Series, Ville Koistinen, BocaDorada
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